WHO Concerned over Humanitarian Health Crisis in Gaza

The World Health Organization on Sunday expressed concern over a humanitarian health crisis in the Gaza Strip, as the health infrastructure struggles to cope with severe shortages in basic supplies.

“The accumulation of shortages in basic supplies in Gaza is leading to rapid deterioration in the social determinants of health for the population of 1.7 million Palestinians,” WHO said.

Over 30 percent of medicines and 50 percent of medical disposables are out of stock in Gaza, and large generators used to power hospitals during 14-hour power cuts have frequent breakdowns.

One of the two generators powering the Gaza European hospital burned out last month, WHO said.

In recent months, government hospitals in Gaza have reduced non-urgent surgery by almost 50 percent to conserve fuel and medical supplies for cases of emergency.

Power shortages also directly and indirectly affect the health of Gazans, as water supplies are reduced, sewage pumps fail to operate and ground transportation for solid waste removal becomes less frequent.

“The severe and prolonged shortages of fuel, electricity and medicines along with widespread poverty stem from 6 years of tight restrictions into and out of Gaza’s borders for people and goods,” WHO said.

The lack of medicine in part also stems from shortages in the main warehouse as a result of the Palestinian Authority’s budget deficit and a lack of medical donations and missions which used to arrive to Gaza from the Arab world.

“WHO calls for long-term systemic solutions to the chronic humanitarian crisis of shortages, rather than short-term aid which relieves but fails to improve the underlying social determinants of health in Gaza.”

On Sunday, director of public relations for the main electricity authority in Gaza, Jamal Dardasawi, warned that the company would fail to meet even a minimum of six-hour electricity distribution a day as winter approaches due to increasing demand.

Last week, Amnesty International called on Israel to “immediately lift its blockade” on the Gaza Strip and allow the “delivery of fuel and other essential supplies into the territory without restrictions.”

In November, the group highlighted the potentially disastrous implications for public health caused by a lack of fuel, pointing out that “all 291 water and wastewater facilities in the Gaza Strip are now relying on standby generators.”

It also noted that a large sewage pumping station had failed south of Gaza City earlier in the month, “allowing more than 35,000 cubic meters of raw sewage to spew into the streets.”

The Gaza Strip has been under a severe economic blockade imposed by Israel since 2006.

The blockade has severely limited the imports and exports of the Gaza Strip and has led to frequent humanitarian crises and hardship for Gazans.

(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)

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